Restaurant owners rally for indoor dining in NYC

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LITTLE NECK, Queens — Cooler weather is on the horizon and that means eating outside at a restaurant isn’t always a pleasant option.

And as restaurants across New York City continue to struggle due to the COVID-19 crisis, there is a renewed push for indoor dining.

“Something has to happen because I don’t see us surviving the winter,” said George Sarafoglou, the owner of Greek Islands restaurant in Little Neck, Queens.

Sarafoglou joined a rally at Il Bacco Restaurant across the street where politicians and small business owners came together Thursday to demand indoor dining in New York City.

“This has left us with many difficulties, a long summer and no clear site to our future,” Il Bacco manager Tina Maria Oppedisano said.

Il Bacco is leading a class action lawsuit against the city and state. The restaurant is feet from Nassau County, where indoor dining is allowed at 50% capacity.

“On this side of the border, in the Borough of Queens and throughout the five boroughs, what does the mayor and the governor say? ‘You eat in the street.’,” said Eric Ulrich, Republican New York City Councilman.

City Councilman Justin Brannan, a Democrat, also wants to know why Long Islanders can eat inside and city residents can’t.

“Tell us why, right now, I can go have a meal anywhere outside the City of New York indoors at limited capacity, but I can’t do it here in the city, the five boroughs,” Brannan said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the issue is making sure all New York City restaurants comply with the rules.

“We are going to contact the speaker today, and say look, ‘If New York City can say this many police, NYPD, can be put on a task force to monitor the compliance, that’s something that we can discuss.'”

A new survey from the New York State Restaurant Association showed nearly two thirds of the state’s restaurants could close by the end of year, if they don’t get help from the government.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he recognizes the struggle.

“I want to see how we can help them, but it has to be health and safety first,” he said at his Thursday press conference.

But there is still no clear timeline on when or if New York City restaurants will be able to serve diners inside.

“I said this week we’re going come to a decision in the next days, definitely in the month of September; give the guidance, based on all the facts, all the data,” Mayor de Blasio said.

Ultimately, it is up to the governor and the state to decide if indoor dining is allowed to return in New York City.

The lawyer that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Il Bacco in Little Neck, said he is requesting an emergency hearing. Their hope is that a court order would reopen indoor dining in New York City.

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